The Shaggs ‘Philosophy of the World’

theshaggsphilosophy

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (# 873 in the Series) is The Shaggs, Philosophy of the World.

Parents. We all think that our kids are special. They are. To us. In 1969, Austin Wiggins thought that his daughters were a musical gift to the world. With little training and experience to go with their poor equipment, the Shaggs were to record an album that would launch Dot, Helen, Betty, and Rachel Wiggin to superstardom. The resulting long player has become a document of great discussion. Is it an amateurish attempt at music? Is it a thing of misunderstood brilliance? Is it to be embraced? Is it to be avoided like the plague?

Some of the greatest moments in rock and roll history have been played by extremely limited hacks. The Sex Pistols, Ramones, and countless other punk bands have had the “If they can do it, so can we.” thought. They had the look and the attitude. The Shaggs had neither the attitude nor look. The definitely didn’t possess the chops, either. Or did they?

Philosophy of the World lurches into action with the title track. “Oh the rich people want what the poor people get and the poor people want what the rich people get. The skinny people want what the fat people get and the fat people want what the skinny people get. You can never please anybody in this world.” This sophomoric lyric is sung over rudimentary strumming with an out of pace drum track. We are off to a rousing start! The table has been aptly set for confusion.

“That Little Sports Car” actually has a background vocal that may signify that the girls may have heard of the Velvet Underground and Nico. It’s at moments like this that the listener may believe that there may be something hidden here. Is this some sort of elaborate ruse? Do the girls really know what they are doing and the joke is on us?

“Who are Parents” is an ode, me thinks,shags to their manager/father. “Parents are the ones who care, who are parents, parents are the ones who always care.” I am left with a lingering question. Do they really mean this? When their dad passed away in the mid-1970’s, The Shaggs never seriously played again. (They did play a show or two in 1999). Were they forced to be in this band as was rumored? Are we listening to a Mommy Dearest moment?

“My Pal Foot Foot” is frequently called the album’s high point. This song describes the writer’s longing for a missing friend. This song is so ambiguously written that I can’t figure out if Foot Foot is an animal or person. The song starts and ends with a drum pattern that could have been written by someone who actually hates drums. It is almost painful to listen to. Or is it perversely beautiful?

And so it goes. A dozen tunes over about 32 minutes. The average music fan would shoot you a look that says “What in God’s name are you making me listen to?” The contrarian may hear some greatness here. As I listened to Philosophy of the World and wrote these vagaries, I bounced back and forth between the two sides. Where is Noah’s Ark? Who killed JFK? Will the Cubs ever win the World Series? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? What to think of Philosophy of the World by the Shaggs?

– Jim McCabe, Lena, Illinois, USAPlease visit and LIKE our facebook page

  Track listing

  1.  “Philosophy of the World” – 2:56shaggsplay
  2. “That Little Sports Car” – 2:06
  3. “Who Are Parents?” – 2:58
  4. “My Pal Foot Foot” – 2:31
  5. “My Companion” – 2:04
  6. “I’m So Happy When You’re Near” – 2:12
  7. “Things I Wonder” – 2:12
  8. “Sweet Thing” – 2:57
  9. “It’s Halloween” – 2:22
  10. “Why Do I Feel?” – 3:57
  11. “What Should I Do?” – 2:18
  12. “We Have a Savior” – 3:06

Personnel

  • Dorothy (aka Dot) Wiggin – lead guitar, vocals
  • Betty Wiggin Porter – rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Helen Wiggin – drums
  • Rachel Wiggin – bass guitar on “That Little Sports Car”

Here’s the album in its entirety. 

Posted by Larry Carta

2 Comments

  1. Kelly Bradford (29 Jul 2013, 16:58)
    Reply

    This album is available on iTunes, Man, it’s really uncool to be sending readers to a link where they can get the whole thing for free, especially for a record like this. Dorothy Wiggins is entitled to royalties, surely.

    • Larry Carta (30 Jul 2013, 1:47)
      Reply

      Kelly, I understand what you’re saying… but we’re not putting music on YouTube that wasn’t there previously. We do NOT upload music to YouTube. If she has a problem with her music being on YouTube then she should have it removed. It’s very easy to do. As long as she shows she has no problem with it being there then we have no problem showing that it’s there. Not to mention the tons of hits that and exposure that she’ll be getting from our giving new exposure to an album that’s 44 years old. Also.. they can’t “get it there” they can just listen to it there. Lastly, if an artist does ask us to remove a link to a something that’s on YouTube we’re more than happy to take it down. Thanks for writing.



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